The layering of infrastructures in urban computing

In Getting Out of the City: Meaning and Structure in Everyday Encounters with Space , Bell and Dourish addresses the different layering of infrastructures in any urban environments: it's physical (topologies), historical and cultural. On top of that, ubiquitous computing adds new infrastructural layers. This is made apparent by activities such as wandering around to find a Wifi or cell phone signal, or locate Mecca through mobile services. The central argument of this short workshop paper lies in what follows:

"spaces have structure and meaning for us in terms of our relationship to a variety of infrastructures of action and interpretation. (...) space is organized not just physically but culturally; cultural understandings provide a frame for encountering space as meaningful and coherent, and for relating it to human activities. Cross-cultural explorations of urban experience can draw attention to these issues. (...) architecture is all about boundaries and transitions and their intersection with human and social practice. (...) We need to think architecturally about the mobile and wireless technologies that we develop and deploy, the human side of infrastructures. (...) new technologies inherently cause people to re-encounter spaces. This isn’t a question of mediation, but rather one of simultaneous layering. (...) we are creating not a virtual but a thoroughly physical infrastructure, and we need to think about it as one that is interwoven with the existing physical structure of space. (...) there is already a complex interaction between space, infrastructure, culture, and experience. The spaces into which new technologies are deployed are not stable, not uniform, and not given. Technology can destabilize and transform these interactions, but will only ever be one part of the mix."

Why do I blog this? although very short, this article summarizes the main points about urban computing issues. They do set the trends that they will develop in further papers and it's relevant to see the main highlights here with concrete call for research actions. I am personnaly very intrigued by "the human side of infrastructures" and the hybridation of these spaces.

Bell, G. and Dourish, P. 2004. Getting Out of the City: Meaning and Structure in Everyday Encounters with Space. Workshop on Ubiquitous Computing on the Urban Frontier (Ubicomp 2004, Nottingham, UK.)